Arts and Entertainment

Warmth and wit light up this festive box of delights 

Album: Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe (XL)

Bobby dazzles as he returns to his gospel roots

Album: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Archive Recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams (Albion)

As with many period recordings, there's a hurdle to be overcome with these Fifties recordings of Vaughan Williams works – most notably, the thinness of the sound and the unusual instrumental balance that initially distracts from Alexander Young's noble English tenor.

Land's Edge: a coastal memoir, By Tim Winton

A novelist captures all the glamour, and terror, of the sea

£9m keeps oldest book in Europe

A seventh-century book that lay buried in a saint's coffin for hundreds of years has been saved for the nation.

The Cavendish Hotel

A hotel where the bar is so sweet

The chocolate usually appears on the pillows in your hotel room, but at The Cavendish Hotel on London's Jermyn Street it is the hotel room.

Album: Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again (Polydor)

Michael Kiwanuka continues the folk-soul tradition of Bill Withers and Terry Callier on this debut album. Sensitively produced by The Bees' Paul Butler, it's a pleasant enough handful of easy-going songs, in which the focus on warmth has left them lacking bite.

Album: Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball (Columbia)

You can see what he's driving at: a muscular response to the rapine of the have-nots by the haves of this world. The gun in the drawer, the hanging on to love, the big beat... These are the colours of Springsteen's heart: the blue collar, the red mist, the need for green.

Sport on TV: Arlott recalls golden days of wine, wisdom and song

John Arlott In Conversation With Mike Brearley (BBC4, Wednesday) was not so much a blast from the past as a gentle burr, like a bumblebee on a summer's day. These are the highlights of a series of fireside chats in 1984 between cricket's greatest commentator and its most cerebral captain. But as Brearley points out in quoting another of the game's great wordsmiths, C L R James: "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" Arlott was one of the few "renaissance" men of post-war Britain. Arlott knew a lot, basically.

Album: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven (RCA)

By the law of averages, talent-show telly has to throw up at least one genuinely serviceable talent every ten years or so, and Rebecca Ferguson is surely that one. Although typically, she didn't win the contest, despite the support of high-profile fans such as Adele - who admitted she voted for Ferguson about 80 times.

Album: Eva Cassidy, Simply Eva (Blix Street)

More exhumations, this time giving insight into how the late virtuoso sounded accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.

Album: Foster Manganyi, Ndzi Teke Riendzo No 1 (Honest Jons)

Foster Manganyi is a South African pastor from the Limpopo region, but his devotional music is far from the organ-based hymnal and soulful gospel belters of most Anglo-American Christian music.

The Human Comedy, Young Vic, London

The Young Vic has an admirable tradition of kicking off its year with a production that pulls in the local community to play alongside professionals in the role of chorus – and the venue has had some of its most signal recent successes in this department. It now launches its 40th anniversary season in joyous fashion with the belated British premiere of The Human Comedy. A flawed, affecting show by Hair composer, Galt MacDermot, this piece flopped on Broadway in 1984, but it fits the bill here to an almost parodic degree in its celebration of the healing power of community and the unifying nature of song.

Album: Various artists, The Gospel Truth! (BGP)

Rance Allen's "Showdown" is one of the sexiest, most soulful records ever.

Album: Gideon Kremer,Kremerata Baltica, Hymns and Prayers (ECM)

Hymns and Prayers combines three works from disparate eras whose moods fit together in a pleasingly astringent manner.

Album: The Sojourners, The Sojourners (Black Hen)

For the most part, gospel music remains a sealed world unto itself, only occasionally showing on the radar of popular music when a group draws on secular material by such as Tom Waits, or collaborates with practitioners of other strains of Americana roots-music.

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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform